PALS:  Use and Background

Early literacy screening is the key to providing effective literacy instruction and preventing future reading problems. The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) provides a comprehensive assessment of students’ knowledge of the important literacy fundamentals that are predictive of future reading success.

PALS consists of three instruments for assessment in English, PALS-PreK (for preschool students), PALS-K (for kindergartners), and PALS Plus (for students in Grades 1-8).  PALS español, which provides assessment of students whose native language is Spanish, includes PALS español-K (for kindergartners) and PALS español 1-3 (for students in Grades 1-3).

PALS assessments are designed to identify students in need of additional reading instruction beyond that provided to typically developing readers. PALS also informs teachers’ instruction by providing them with explicit information about their students’ knowledge of literacy fundamentals. PALS Mid-year assessment and PALS Quick Checks allow for ongoing student progress monitoring throughout the year (currently in English only).  The Mid-Year and Quick Check tools are included in the purchase of any of the three PALS assessments for English.

For information specific to each PALS assessment tool, please select one of the assessments listed in the drop-down menu under “Assessments” or click on the links above.

What does implementation look like?

  • PALS may be administered in small groups, whole class, and one-on-one, depending on the task and individual student needs. 
  • Most PALS tasks are designed to mimic instructional tasks that often occur during small-group literacy instruction, so much of PALS administration can be integrated into the regular literacy block time.
  • For most tasks, students’ answers can be entered directly into the PALS Online System during assessment. Students interact with a computer screen only for the Word Recognition in Isolation task, which flashes each word on the screen for just under one second.
  • Consumable student answer sheets are included with the purchase of PALS and are needed only for select tasks.  Teachers enter responses for these tasks into the PALS Online System after administration, for automatic scoring and reporting.
  • The PALS Online System provides online reports at the teacher, grade, school, and district levels.
  • Each PALS task has an individual task benchmark, to which students’ scores can be compared to determine if the student has the minimum competency needed for that skill to be on track for success in reading.
  • PALS provides professional development, including training on how to administer and score PALS, in the following forms:
    • online training tutorials that are included with any purchase of PALS,
    • access to monthly professional development webinars, both live and recorded, as part of the Premier package, and
    • access to the PALS online professional development site, as part of the Premier package.

For more detailed information, explore the “Implementation” and “PALS Online System” menu links above.

A Brief History of PALS and PALS español

The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) was developed by Marcia Invernizzi, Ph.D., and colleagues over a decade ago at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education through Virginia’s Early Intervention Reading Initiative (EIRI). Since 1997, PALS has served as the universal screening tool for Virginia and is now used in all 50 states, as well as in many foreign countries, for early identification and intervention.

The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening in Spanish (PALS español) was developed by Dr. Karen Ford and colleagues at the University of Virginia.  PALS español tasks are parallel to English PALS tasks, but are NOT translations.  The goal of PALS español is to provide Spanish-speaking children in the United States equal access to an effective, research-based literacy assessment and intervention.

Our PALS office, a division of Illuminate Education, (of which IO Education is now a part), was developed to extend our mission to reduce the number of children with reading problems through early detection and to provide instructional resources. Research and development of PALS and PALS español continues at the University of Virginia.